Bankers began to wring benefits from mergers and cost-cutting campaigns in the first half, easily offsetting an uptick in problem loans at the largest banks.

According to American Banker's statistical snapshot of the 58 banking companies with more than $10 billion of assets, return on assets increased on average to 1.38%, from 1.35%, and return on equity grew to 18.06%, from 17.69% in the first half of 1997 (Complete tables appear on pages 8-10.)

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